Modernismo Invisible

Completed Project
Barcelona, Spain

Not to be mistaken with modern architecture, Modernismo is the name by which the Art Noveau architecture style was known in Spain. This artistic movement, which flourished during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was characterized by eclectic architectural details, the use of fluid lines inspired by natural shapes, and the references to historic or mythological themes.

Modernismo was especially popular in the Catalonia region, where the growing industrial bourgeoisie embraced the style as a representation of the emerging Catalonian identity. As the style developed, Catalan Modernista (Modernista is the adjective form of Modernismoarchitects such as Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner traveled throughout Spain, designing buildings and training other architects.

Although Modernismo was adopted in cities like Valencia, Comillas, and Melilla, it was in Barcelona that the style truly flourished. The Catalan capital became a laboratory for the most extravagant, unusual, and magnificent architecture designs. While many of them are very well known today (such as the iconic Sagrada Familia by Gaudí), some others go unnoticed to the public. Modernista cafes, restaurants, shops, and many publicly-accessible private interiors are hidden, invisible to both tourists and locals alike.   

After the inclusion of the Güell Pavilions and Garden on the 2014 Watch, World Monuments Fund realized that many astonishing Modernista buildings were not very well known by the public. In order to address this issue and support sustainable tourism, WMF and the University of Barcelona, supported by American Express, developed an app, called Modernismo Invisible, that showcases over 100 of the most representative “invisible” Modernista works scattered throughout the city.

The app, which is available for both Android and iPhone devices in English, Spanish, and Catalan, contains a selection of geo-located Modernista buildings in Barcelona. Each building’s card contains a series of pictures and a brief description about its history and design. The app includes the buildings surrounding the ten most iconic Modernista buildings in the city. This way it aims to lead tourists and locals to explore sites off the beaten path, alleviating the pressure to over-visited Modernista sites.

Experts at the University of Barcelona contributed to the text included on the app. WMF and American Express organized a photography contest to select the author for the images. Local photographer Eduardo Santos Perales, the winner, took more than 300 photographs to illustrate the app.

Last updated: April 2024.

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